SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black isn't afraid of youth on the mound or behind the plate. He also knows what security a strong bullpen can bring.Most of all, in his first year as Rockies manager, Black has been greeted by some talented and accomplished players who are ready
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black isn't afraid of youth on the mound or behind the plate. He also knows what security a strong bullpen can bring.
Most of all, in his first year as Rockies manager, Black has been greeted by some talented and accomplished players who are ready to win.
Black knew all this in November, when he accepted the offer to replace Walt Weiss as manager. Seeing the team in flesh and blood has deepened Black's belief in the club as Spring Training winds down this week.
Black addressed several aspects of his first Rockies club in a recent question-and-answer session. Here are some highlights of how he addressed several subjects:
On culture and talent
"From the other dugout from many years, watching Rockies baseball, you could tell that the players were starting to develop -- [DJ] LeMahieu, [Nolan] Arenado, [Charlie] Blackmon, to go along with [Carlos] Gonzalez, it was a nice core of position players.
"Then here comes Trevor Story, young David Dahl, the young catching. From the other side it looked really, really good and promising. That's what I've seen now here in camp; the realization of these young guys as big-leaguers. Now we've got to get the young starting pitching caught up with these fellows."
On whether young pitching can win big
"I'm going to go back a couple generations, or a generation, but you can go back to when the Kansas City Royals sort of turned over from 1983 to 1984, and when you talk Bret Saberhagen, Mark Gubicza, Danny Jackson, Charlie Leibrandt, all guys in their early-to-mid 20s who got a chance to pitch. And these fellows performed. That's my hope, that our young pitchers, our young starters, can get an opportunity, take that opportunity, run with it and perform.
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"At some point you're a young pitcher. And for some guys it takes a little longer. Fortunately, I had a rough rookie year, then sort of found it and got better. But I'm hoping between myself and our pitching coaches, we can get some of these guys moving along a little quicker than it took me."
On the experienced bullpen
"That's so critical this day and age, the bullpen. Any manager or general manager will tell you how important that is to your team's success.
"So it starts with the closer. Even going back to my days in Anaheim, we had Troy Percival and we had Frankie Rodriguez, and we had great guys in front of them -- [Scot] Shields, [Brendan] Donnelly, [Ben] Weber, [Scott] Schoeneweis. Then when I got to San Diego, we had Trevor Hoffman, All-Star, Heath Bell, All-Star, Huston Street, All-Star, and guys in front of them -- Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, Joe Thatcher; guys who performed.
"With this group, you look at Greg Holland. You look at Mike Dunn. You look at Adam Ottavino. You've got four guys who we project for our 'pen. You add the veteran Chad Qualls when he bounces back from his arm issue to make an impact in our 'pen. Our bullpen has a veteran feel to it. We'll have some young guys out there, too, to cover some innings. But most of the important work will come from veteran guys."
On the readiness for productive players to become winners
"Talking to these fellows in the wintertime and talking to these guys this spring, they're ready. They feel as though they're ready to take that step, track down the Dodgers and Giants -- teams that have been in front of us for a couple of years.
"They're up for that challenge. These guys are now solidified as Major League players. The next step is to solidify themselves as perennial contenders. That's where we need to get to. That's where so many teams want to get to, where each and every year you feel good about our chances. But again, that's a collective team effort. That takes all facets. We've got to get the pitching up to speed with that."
On if there is enough depth and talent in key areas to contend now
"That's why we play. We'll find that out. But we like the talent. Again, we need the talent realized in between the lines. But on a scouting scale, if you look at our players, we have some talent. A lot of these young pitchers, these catchers, are not overly battle-tested over a length of a season or even a couple of years. These are young players.
"But what I like about them is the makeup; the ability to gather information, process it, put it into play. These guys have been sponges as far as information. But it's going to take quick studies by a number of these players to be big leaguers and contributors right away at the big league level."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.